“We’ll always have Paris,” maybe the best catch phrase from the movie Casablanca, but the underlying meaning is a treasured experience shared with someone. My husband and I recently had our Casablanca moment when we discovered the joy of slow travel in France on a luxury barge cruise in Alsace Lorraine. The 4 room, 8 passenger barge was like a floating 6 star hotel where the scenery changed daily. In my opinion luxury barge travel is the ultimate way to experience France.
Here are “insider tips” for a luxury barge cruise in Alsace, France
While the canals of France originally served as a way for merchants to transport goods throughout the country, today, barges carry holiday travelers throughout the French countryside at a leisurely and relaxing pace. Don’t let the term barge throw you off. Our luxury barge, La Nouvelle Etoile, was 129 feet long and 17 feet wide with 4 deluxe cabins, en suite bathroom, 6’7″-7’4″ ceilings, and everything your heart desired. For passengers with mobility issues, there’s even an elevator on board the luxury barge.
Insider tip: laundry service is available on board. Iron and ironing board are available on request.
International, multi-lingual barge crew
You’ll be met by your private tour guide at your hotel, train station or agreed upon pick up point and whisked off in a luxury mini van, to meet La Nouvelle Etoile and your crew for the next 7 days and 6 nights. We took the high-speed TGV train to Strasbourg the day before our cruise departure so we could get over our jet lag in a charming location. There are plenty of things to see and do here if you want to do Strasbourg like a local.
Our luxury barge cruise in Alsace included a chauffeured driver who picked us up at Hotel Rohan in Strasbourg, France. Thanks to Barge Lady Cruises we were provided with a packing list, hotel recommendations, train scheduling tips and everything we needed to make our French barge cruise stress free.
Wellness travel on luxury barge cruise
For those who worry that a luxury barge cruise might not be active enough for them, rest assured it will not be a problem. Both myself and my friend Ava Roxanne Stritt of Spa Travel Gal, were worried how our husbands would do on a barge for 7 days. The barge passes through 42 locks, two tunnels and takes a 10 minute barge lift that will drop about 135 feet to cross the Vosges Mountains. Passengers are able to walk, jog and bicycle along the Green Road towpaths. The Green Road follows along the canal barge cruise from Strasbourg to Paris, France and is both scenic and well maintained; a plus for those who like to step off the barge and exercise.
Wellness travel is important for our minds and our bodies. Sometimes it’s nice to begin the day with a yoga mat placed on the deck to stretch our body and relax our mind. The slow travel in France of the barge melts stress away. It’s easy to sit back and read a book while we cruise, enjoy a mindful meditation session or create a spa day with a massage before or after the hot tub.
Insider tip: don’t forget to pack a swimsuit on your barge cruise.
Active adventure travel
Of course, if you want a more strenuous work out while on holiday, take a morning run along the towpath. We enjoyed the electric bikes that Captain Jan Meijer keeps on board La Nouvelle Etoile. I’m not sure if the ebikes are a nod to Captain Jan’s Dutch heritage or he simply likes keeping up with the latest fitness amenities, but we loved cruising along the French canals. We rode through half-timbered villages, stopping to admire a stork couple sitting on their nest. These are the things you won’t notice when you travel by car or train in Alsace-Lorraine.
As I specialize in equestrian travel, my holiday in France wouldn’t be complete without a horseback ride through the French countryside. Our tour director scouted out a horse riding stable in Troisfontaines and a French equestrian who spoke English joined us on a forest ride.
Insider tip: We went horseback riding at Country Ranch Du Stoss. They had friendly horses for all riding levels and used Western saddles. Pack long pants if you plan to go trail riding.
Michelin quality, gourmet dining
I saved the best for last; the food! My husband and I have been fortunate to sail on several river cruises, including a Danube River Cruise. The food on La Nouvelle Etoile is comparable to a Michelin star restaurant. Chef Louis is passionate about his farm to table ingredients and all of the crew appreciate fine dining. There is even an herb garden on the barge. I was delighted to see the chef harvesting fresh basil for a pesto sauce to accompany one of the dishes. Additionally, chef brought back many special cheeses from his recent trip to Spain.
We were served breakfast, lunch and dinner daily on Wedgewood china with Christofle silver and fine crystal. Both lunch and dinner included wines paired with the meal. Each evening featured hors d’oeuvre and cocktail hour with the captain, followed by a multi course dinner.
All of us were like well trained puppies waiting for the signal to eat when it came time for the cheese plate to appear before dessert. Now that we’ve returned home to our normal dining routine, I still miss our twice daily cheese plate.
Need to know:
The luxury barge encounters 8 locks per day, with a total of 42 locks and travels about 25 miles per day. While it is possible to charter your own barge, it was very clear by day one that there are a lot of inexperienced holiday barge operators on the canal. We felt very fortunate to have a skilled owner/operator on board at all times. Jan is a true professional in his industry with many years of barge operation under his belt.
Our barge experience included Ritual of Happy Buddha bath amenities, daily house keeping, fresh flowers in rooms, in-room safe and WiFi (spotty at times and not available when going through locks, but let’s be real, we’re on a floating hotel!) Rooms may be configured with one queen bed or two twin beds.
Insider tip: don’t forget your electrical adapters (220 volt outlets.) The barge has USB ports in bedrooms and salon area.
Insider destination tip:
Springtime in Holland is one of the most popular cruises on La Nouvelle Etoile and takes place yearly from the end of March until mid May. The time to book is the end of April the prior year. The luxury barge cruise visits Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Lisse, Netherlands. The garden is only open 8 weeks during the year. Additionally, Captain Jan cruises to multiple European destinations.
If you go:
SPECIAL OFFER Mention Nancy Brown when booking your reservation on this all-inclusive luxury barge cruise in Alsace.
Barge Lady Cruises (800) 880-0071
101 W Grand Ave. #200
Chicago, Illinois 60654
Luxury Barge Cruise in Alsace: Slow Travel in France review, YouTube video and photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. Note: thank you to Jan Meijer and Barge Lady Cruises for their hospitality. All views above are, as always, my own.